What's new in academic programs and online education

Herbie Lee, Vice Provost Academic Affairs (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Every year, faculty add, update, and occasionally discontinue academic programs to ensure our students get the best possible education. This year, we are making changes to the graduate and undergraduate curriculum, as well as to our online offerings.

I am pleased to announce these enhancements to the UC Santa Cruz curriculum:

• We have started a new M.S. program in scientific computing and applied mathematics, based in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics. Students learn both computational methods and theoretical modeling, and graduates will be prepared to enter the growing market for data scientists and modelers in computationally intensive environments, including industry and government agencies. This program is open to students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and it can be completed in one year by students with sufficient preparation.

• Environmental Studies has added a concentration in agroecology and sustainable food systems to its B.A. program, starting in Fall 2015. Students will learn about ecological concepts and how to apply them to sustainable agricultural systems and will also develop their understanding of the social, political, and economic aspects of agriculture.

• Latin American and Latino Studies has discontinued two of its undersubscribed combined majors: the LALS/global economics combined major and the LALS/literature combined major. Currently declared students in these combined majors will be supported to a timely graduation, but no new declarations will be accepted. The more popular combined majors with politics and with sociology are continuing.

• Admissions have been suspended for the M.S. in Technology and Information Management.

There are several more new program proposals at various stages of the approval process, such as a proposal for a B.A. in games and playable media. Look for updates on my website.

Our campus has also been active in developing and offering fully online courses through UC's systemwide online initiatives. This year, students from all UC campuses were able to enroll in three fully online UCSC courses: Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (MATH 19A and 19B), developed and taught by mathematicians Anthony Tromba and Frank Bäuerle; and Introduction to Fresh Water: Processes and Policy (ENVS 65), developed and taught by Brent Haddad in environmental studies.

From the outset, Tromba and Bäuerle were committed to developing an outstanding calculus course, and their course became the first in the UC system to receive articulation agreements on all UC campuses—a badge of honor for UCSC and a tribute to Tromba and Bäuerle.

More systemwide online courses are coming next year, beginning in the fall. Earth scientist Susan Schwartz collaborated with colleagues at UC Davis and UC San Diego to develop a fully online version of Geology of National Parks (EART 3), which will be open to all UC students in Fall 2015.

Three online courses are currently in development, with plans to be offered in Winter 2015: Lené Whitley-Putz in the writing program is developing a course on the theme of Writing Disney (WRIT 2); Erika Zavaleta in environmental studies is developing Ecosystems of California (ENVS 125); and Tromba and Bäuerle are developing the first course in the Vector Calculus sequence (MATH 23A).

Finally, we are continuing our partnership with Coursera, offering free online courses developed by three of our esteemed senior or emeriti faculty: The Holocaust by literature professor Murray Baumgarten and history professor Peter Kenez, and C++ for C Programmers by computer science professor Ira Pohl. New versions of these courses will be released this summer and fall, respectively.

The initial offerings of these Coursera courses jointly enrolled 86,000 learners worldwide, many of whom otherwise lack access to first-rate educational materials. As online education continues to evolve, we can be proud of the quality and impact of our offerings.

Faculty interested in learning about opportunities to develop online courses are encouraged to contact Michael Tassio, the academic affairs analyst in my office, at mtassio@ucsc.edu.